A Pro-Gun Sociology Course? Sort of, At Least

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AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

When we look at American colleges and universities, most of us see hostile territory. Over and over again, academia has tripped over itself to make it quite clear that they don’t value many of our rights, particularly the Second Amendment.

This is particularly true in areas like sociology and other social sciences.

Throughout the nation, these courses tend to condition students to be hostile to the Second Amendment.

Yet it seems there’s at least one sociology course that’s doing things just a bit differently. It’s trying to provide some important context to the Second Amendment discussion for students.

Title of course:

“Sociology of Guns”

What prompted the idea for the course?

I grew up in the liberal culture of the San Francisco Bay Area and never touched a firearm until I was 42 years old, living in North Carolina and teaching sociology at Wake Forest University.

For the past 10-plus years I have been deeply immersed in American gun culture both professionally and personally. I have both studied and am a member of the Liberal Gun Club, National Rifle Association and other gun-related groups.

Having one foot outside and one foot inside gun culture allows me to see the social life of guns from different perspectives. Wanting to convey this diversity to others prompted me to construct and teach this course for the first time in 2015. This fall, I will teach the course for the ninth consecutive academic year.

Title of course:

“Sociology of Guns”

What prompted the idea for the course?

I grew up in the liberal culture of the San Francisco Bay Area and never touched a firearm until I was 42 years old, living in North Carolina and teaching sociology at Wake Forest University.

For the past 10-plus years I have been deeply immersed in American gun culture both professionally and personally. I have both studied and am a member of the Liberal Gun Club, National Rifle Association and other gun-related groups.

Having one foot outside and one foot inside gun culture allows me to see the social life of guns from different perspectives. Wanting to convey this diversity to others prompted me to construct and teach this course for the first time in 2015. This fall, I will teach the course for the ninth consecutive academic year.

Title of course:

“Sociology of Guns”

What prompted the idea for the course?

I grew up in the liberal culture of the San Francisco Bay Area and never touched a firearm until I was 42 years old, living in North Carolina and teaching sociology at Wake Forest University.

For the past 10-plus years I have been deeply immersed in American gun culture both professionally and personally. I have both studied and am a member of the Liberal Gun Club, National Rifle Association and other gun-related groups.

Having one foot outside and one foot inside gun culture allows me to see the social life of guns from different perspectives. Wanting to convey this diversity to others prompted me to construct and teach this course for the first time in 2015. This fall, I will teach the course for the ninth consecutive academic year.

What does the course explore?

Rather than focusing exclusively on gun violence and politics, my course looks more broadly at guns in society.

The class begins by literally putting firearms in students’ hands.

The first class meeting is at a gun range, where students have the opportunity – but are not required – to shoot three semi-automatic firearms: a .22 pistol, a Glock 17 9 mm pistol and an AR-15 style .223 caliber rifle. The field trip is a source of insight that carries through the entire semester.

Is this a pro-gun sociology class, then?

Well, not really. While it does provide some important context from the pro-gun side of the argument, it also balances that against reading from anti-gun people like Adam Winkler.

Yet it does seem to do one thing very well. It undermines a lot of fear- and emotion-based arguments about why people own guns.

A lot of the students shoot a firearm for the first time and find they enjoy it. They start to understand why ordinary Americans would want a firearm even if they don’t live in a dangerous area. They’re just fun to shoot.

Further, a lot of those students will shoot a gun for the first time and enjoy it so much that they buy their own and become part of the gun culture themselves. That’s a big win for all of us.

Even if this is just a balanced view of the topic of guns in the United States, that’s a drastic change from where we’ve been on most US campuses. As the author teaches sociology and is part of gun rights groups, one almost has to imagine it can’t be that anti-gun.

If only we could get a course like this in every school. If so, we’d likely see a bit less stupid on the topic of guns.

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